Many agree today that it is futile to talk about conflict transformation or reconciliation without a critical review of the past. The future of our society and state depends a lot on how much we refuse to embellish history and admit our mistakes and crimes.
Today we, Georgians, Abkhazians and Ossetians know much more about the developments in distant countries than about each other, even about the tragedies of our recent past. It has been almost three decades after the atrocities of war and we need to realize the significance of those days. It is true that nothing can bring back the Georgian, Ossetian or Abkhazian lives lost during the war, however, we have to realize our mistakes and crimes and, where possible, remedy them.
The tragedies of Dzari and Eredvi are one of the most painful pages of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict for Ossetians, and the Lata tragedy is the hardest episode of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict for Abkhazians.
In March 1991, in response to the burning of 4 Georgians in a car by ethnic Ossetians, members of the then Georgian armed forces buried 12 ethnic Ossetians alive. On March 18, people traveling from Dmenisi, Khelchua and Zemo Kere to Tskhinvali by Ural vehicle were dropped off near the village of Eredvi. There were 25 people in the car. Women and children were released, while 12 men went missing that day. Their remains were found only in 1993, with the help of the Gori Prosecutor's Office.
The murder of 4 Georgians on Mount Tsveriakho shortly before this fact, as well as the Eredvi tragedy, remains uninvestigated and a black spot in the history of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict.
Other similar stories can also be recalled from the recent past.
The tragedy that took place on December 14, 1992, near the village of Lata in the Gulripshi district of Abkhazia, was one of the most difficult days for Abkhazians. A shell fired from the territories controlled by the military units of the State Council of Georgia shot down a helicopter flying from Tkvarcheli, killing 87 people on board, including 35 children and 8 pregnant women.
On May 20, 1992, a convoy of vehicles driving from Tskhinvali to North Ossetia was attacked and fired by unidentified individuals in the village of Dzari in the Java district, leaving 32 people dead, including children; 16 others were injured.
Similar tragedies can be recalled by both sides, although people mostly think about their own tragedy and pain. The war created mistrust and alienation, as a result of which, we do not know much about the pain of the "other side". We have forgotten how to share grief and mourn together. Many similar stories have been erased from our memory.
The tragedies of Sokhumi and Tskhinvali, numerous victims and displacement of thousands of people over the decades are issues that we all remember, or should remember. Neither these tragedies have been investigated. We, people, always mourn only our own tragedies, feel only our own pain, but we cannot share the tragedy of others, of the other side.
The tragedies of Dzari, Eredvi and Lata are not the tragedies of only Abkhazians or Ossetians, they are the tragedies of everyone, the tragedies of people, the country, all Georgia.
It is tragic what happened, but no less terrible is the fact that we have put up with these tragedies that have not been investigated so far and perpetrators have not been punished. Over the years, governments have changed, with no desire to investigate these crimes. Nor did anyone do anything to inform all Georgian citizens of these tragedies.
Furthermore, we have never tried to commemorate the victims of these tragedies or to offer sympathy to their families. The authorities have not expressed a desire to personally express their condolences to the families of the victims. And this has been so for years, while the pain has not gone anywhere.
Offering sincere sympathy over these tragedies, properly studying, investigating and evaluating these cases would be important steps towards restoring trust.
An investigation of the above-mentioned cases is at least necessary in order to prevent a recurrence of such crimes in the future. Understanding the evil of the past must unite people for changing the present situation.
Until then, it is desirable to take the following steps: the authorities should state their official position on these tragedies and find some form to establish facts and complete the investigation that began years ago; ensure that these facts are investigated in order to identify and punish all the perpetrators involved; inform the citizens of Georgia about these tragedies, as they have the right to know what happened years ago; declare a remembrance day to honor all those who died on both sides of the Georgian-Ossetian and Georgian-Abkhazian conflicts.
A long time has passed after the physical violence and war, though there remain conflicts in the hearts of people. Hate and anger have been controlling people's lives for a long time. These emotions paralyze people and turn them into hostages of hatred.
When people are overwhelmed with anger and hatred, it is impossible for them to reasonably evaluate events and look ahead. Sharing human tragedies after so many years of armed conflict may be a step towards breaking the negative circle so that emotions and hatred no longer rule people. We must learn how to get out of this situation and understand and feel each other’s pain and tragedy.
It is necessary to learn from the past mistakes. It is about taking responsibility for one’s own role in the conflict, a conflict in which everyone suffered the heaviest loss, a conflict that still continues, a conflict that left thousands of victims.
The memory of innocent people obliges us to take steps to find out the truth. Respecting the innocent victims will help us in rebuilding trust.
Author: Ucha Nanuashvili
On 18th of August 2022, “Georgia Dream” banned International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) from participating in the working group on electoral issues.